Zambia: Women's representation quotas

Updated May 2008

The Constitution of Zambia (1996) makes no provision for quotas to further the representation of women in publically elected bodies at any level, national, provincial or local. The Constitution is masculine in its language. The word "gender" appears only once, in Article 139 (13), which reads: "In this Constitution, unless the context otherwise requires, words and expressions importing the masculine gender include females". Consequently, the pronouns "he", "him" and "his" used repeatedly, while the words "she", "her" and "hers" wholly absent. The word "women" also appears only once, in the "Preamble", where the resolve is made to "RECOGNISE the equal worth of men and women in their rights to participate, and freely determine and build a political, economic and social system of their own free choice". Article 11 prohibits the abridgement of fundamental rights and freedoms on the basis of sex, while Article 23 prohibits discrimination on the ground of sex.

The members of the Zambian National Assembly are elected from single member constituencies by plurality, a system that has generally tended to under represent women elsewhere in the SADC (see for example, Botswana, Malawi and Zimbabwe in Women's representation in the Lower House of Parliament). This has also proved to be the case in Zambia, where women formed less than 7% of elected members of the National Assembly in 1991 with representation rising to 14% in the 2006 election (see Women's representation in the National Assembly).

Party quotas

Frequently, in the absence of formal legal quotas, women's representation has been advanced through the adoption of voluntary quotas to ensure the selection of women as candidates and there election to public bodies. In Zambia this is not the case. Jotham Momba (2005, 27) reported that all the political parties he surveyed "indicated that they did not provide any quotas for women or youth candidates for parliamentary or local government elections. There are no special programmes to enhance women and youth participation in either intra-party leadership elections or to enhance their chances of being adopted as party candidates in parliamentary and local government elections".

Thus in 2006 National Assembly election 14% of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy's candidates were women and 15% of their elected MPs (see 2006 National Assembly elections gender breakdown). The Patriotic Front faired better, 17% of their candidates and 21% of their elected members were women. Smaller parties such as the Heritage Party (21%) and the Reform Party (a third) nominated higher proportions of women, but did not win any seats at all.

Party leadership quotas

In general political parties have no quotas to ensure the representation of women in leadership positions within party structures (Momba 2005, 27). There are exceptions. The United Party for National Development, the leading member of the 2006 United Democratic Alliance electoral coalition, has provisions that ensure that at least 30% of its national management committee members are women (Momba 2005, 27). The United National Independence Party, another United Democratic Alliance member, is committed to a 30% representation of women within party structures, but these are not laid down in the party's constitution (Momba 2005, 27).


CONSTITUTION OF ZAMBIA 1996, [www] [PDF document, opens new window] (accessed 21 Jan 2010).

MOMBA, J 2005, "Women and Youth Participation" IN Political Parties and the Quest for Democratic Consolidation in Zambia [PDF], EISA Research Report 17.